Virtually 1 in Four acknowledged victims of poisonous humidifier sterilizer merchandise is lifeless: Residents’ Initiative

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) – Almost one in four people recognized as a victim of deadly humidifier sterilizer products in South Korea has died, a citizens’ group said on Wednesday.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the humidifier sterilizer scandal, the Asian Community Center for Environment and Health published a report that as of August a total of 7,535 people – 1,687 deceased and 5,848 survivors – had reported being victims of toxic humidifier sterilizer products 20.

Of the total, 4,120 damages had been granted by July.

The death rate among recognized victims reached nearly 25 percent, 1,016 of whom died.

The scandal involving Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, the local unit of British hygiene product manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, and other companies came to light after four pregnant women died in 2011 from unknown lung problems.

Local authorities opened an investigation into the case and concluded that the case was caused by polyhexamethylene guanidine, an antibacterial agent used in humidifier cleaners that can be fatal if inhaled.

Among the recognized victims, young people made up the largest proportion with 1,241 (30 percent), followed by the 40-year-olds with 658 (16 percent). There have been many victims ages 9 and under who have now become teenagers, the group explained.

The death toll was highest among 60- and 70-year-olds at 237 and 235, respectively. However, the death rate was highest among victims of children under 10 years of age, at 77 percent.

“The high death rate among younger victims is due to their age-related biological weakness and long exposure to the deadly disinfectants commensurate with their bed hours,” the group said.

The group also pointed out that there are currently 55 surviving victims of the humidifier-cleaner scandal, ages nine and younger, showing that they have been using the problematic products even after health officials ordered companies to stop production and recall all potentially fatal products in the market in November 2011.

“This means that the government and companies have not properly recalled the illegitimate products and have not informed the public not to use them,” it said.

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